Monday, May 24, 2004

An email I didn't send today

Dearest fellow StreetTakers in the SFish area,

I'm sure you're all in the know about this early June riseup, but I thought I'd send this to you anyway just to make my disconnected, lost-in-BuyEverything-ProtestNothing-land, meditate-to-pretend-i'm-discovering-inner-freedom, self feel a little better.

My flesh won't be with you in SF in June, or Georgia in June, or Boston in July, or New York in August, or anywhere else in any time soon, but my spirit is always

With you,


------ Original Message ------
Received: 09:22 PM PDT, 05/08/2004
From: "Reilly Zagreus Phanes"
Subject: Reclaim the Commons------Travellers' Tale from Possible (An Otherworld)

Reclaim the Commons

We never thought it would happen here, in San Francisco—a major
mobilization on a global justice issue. We never thought any of the
institutions of corporate globalization would schedule a meeting in this
hotbed of activism. But we weren’t taking into account the biotech
industry, with its tentacles deeply embedded into neighboring Silicon Valley
to the south of us. They are having their major annual meeting, Bio2004, at
San Francisco’s Moscone Center in early June, at the same time the G8 will
be meeting in Georgia. And we are rising to the occasion with a
mobilization we have named Reclaim the Commons, which will extend beyond the
issues of genetic engineering and biowarfare to include the whole arena of
corporate control of our economy and our governments, and link the
environmental, peace, and racial justice movements. We are calling on
everyone who can to come to San Francisco June 4-9, for a convergence that
will include teach-ins, trainings, gardening projects and urban
transformations, a Really, Really Free Market, marches, and direct action
linked to our sister mobilization in Georgia. Come check out our website at .

For months, we’ve been organizing, meeting, planning, and making
connections with local and neighborhood groups. We want to do this one
differently—not just to protest biotech, but to embody our vision of a world
of sustainable abundance and real democracy, where we take back the commons,
all those things that are necessary to sustain life, that are our common
heritage and the common trust for generations to come after us. Our
statement of unity says:

“The Commons are the universal heritage of people and all living
They are everything needed to support healthy life on earth: air, water,
food, shelter, health care, energy sources and our genes. They are what is
needed to sustain culture: our multicultural heritages, education,
information and the means to disseminate it, essential human services,
public spaces, and political space. They are equally the land, its forests,
the oceans, and all ecosystems. In sum, the Commons are everything that we
inherit jointly and freely, and hold in trust for future generations.”

So we’ve also been propagating plants and making links with
community gardens, covering greenhouses and seeding long term projects that
can help provide healthy, organic food in the inner city, examples of
sustainable energy and ecological solutions, a memorial grove for youth
killed in street violence, and common gathering places. We’ve been starting
plants to give away at the really, really free market and breeding worms for
compost and fertilizing tea. We’re planning actions that will be exuberant,
creative, visionary, and inspiring as well as confrontational.

But we need help. We need money, to be blunt about it. All the
usual sources of money for this sort of thing have dried up this year.
Foundations that fund activism are funneling all their money into getting
Bush out of office—a goal we support. But we see this mobilization as
attacking the root causes of the lack of democracy that put him in office in
the first place. We need tens of thousands of dollars to rent a convergence
space in high-priced San Francisco, print and distribute our flyers and
outreach materials, feed, house and provide emergency medical care for those
who will come, and to realize our visions.

So we’re asking directly for help from our community, asking you
to help water the garden. We know that a lot of you don’t have a whole lot
of money, and we know that there are lots of appeals for the money you do
have. But no garden can grow without some fertilization, and if we want to
realize our dreams and visions, we need to provide the resources and support
for them. You can donate directly from the webpage, www.reclaimthe or through the address
below. Donations can even be tax deductible, letting you buy a few more
plants for us and a few less bullets for Iraq.

PO Box 9363
Santa Rosa CA 95405

And as a little thank you in advance for your support, I’m
including here the first installment of Traveller’s Tales from Possible—to
be continued on the Reclaim the Commons website:
and my own,

Thanks so much,

Travellers’ Tales from Possible: What Is This, Anyway?

“Another World is Possible” has long been the slogan of the
global justice movement. But what would that world look like, and how would
it work? Would it be any different, really, from this one? Fortunately, we
can now answer that question with an eyewitness report from Possible, which
exists just on the other side of This Reality. Beware, you, too, might slip
through, and never be the same again. To an awakened imagination, anything
is possible. So if you don’t like ours, dream up some possibilities of your

Traveller’s Tales from Another World
Part One
Welcome to Possible
(as told to Starhawk)

It takes a certain kind of person to maintain a tight knot of anxiety in the
pit of the belly when a chorus of frogs is happily croaking in the morning
fog outside your window, and the scent of honeysuckle drifting in. But as a
lifetime New Yorker, and a science writer for the New York Times, I’d had
plenty of practice maintaining tension. The arias of the songbirds, the
lemony scent of herbal tea brought to me by my hostess, the lavender-scented
fresh sheets on my comfortable bed all made me nervous. I missed the slight
chemical taint of the dehydrating, artificially cooled air of the Marriott,
where I should have been staying, the comforting traces of someone’s stale
cigarettes, the homey conversation of the early morning talk shows on TV,
the bad coffee from the automatic coffeemaker.

My name is Alice Stickly, I’m a successful journalist in an extremely
competitive field, and I want to go home!

But let me get hold of myself, and start from the beginning,
with the who, what, where, when and why, as they taught us in the journalism
school at NYU, even if the how has me mystified.

Yesterday, I was on my way to San Francisco to cover the biotechnology
industry’s biggest annual get-together, a massive flocking of journalists,
lobbyists, CEOs and management and marketing teams and here and there a few
actual scientists. It was an ontime, nonstop flight from La Guardia. No
boxcutter-wielding terrorists attempted to highjack it; no anthrax was piped
through the ventilation system and nothing whatsoever exploded. I spent the
flight napping and worrying about nothing more than would there be
protestors at the convention, and could you get a decent margarita at the
Marriott? Everything was completely normal, unless you count the fact that
my luggage arrived on time and undamaged. I picked up my bags, and walked
out of the baggage area at exactly midnight, through a big, black gate like
a metal detector. Then things began to get strange.

I remember thinking, “How odd, a metal detector as you’re leaving…it must be
some new antiterrorist device,” when everything changed. A mist rolled in,
as if all the fogs of San Francisco coalesced and slipped through the
airport’s revolving doors. I found myself walking down a long hallway. I
could hardly see beyond my face, but I kept going, as if some mysterious
force was drawing me. A banner loomed out of the mist ahead of me. It
proclaimed, “Another World is Possible!” It was the slogan from the World
Social Forum, in India this year. I didn’t think much of it—after all, this
was liberal San Francisco. But a few yards further on, a second banner read,
“An Otherworld is Possible.” And beyond that, “Welcome to Possible.”

I blinked, feeling a sudden nervousness. Where was I? What had happened?
Had I gotten onto the wrong plane? In thirteen years of professional
journalism, hundreds, thousands of trips, I had never before so much as
misplaced a ticket. Was something wrong with me? But even if I’d somehow
gotten on the wrong plane, I hadn’t been in the air long enough to get to
India. Besides, the conference was in January and this was June. Could I be
losing my mind?

Just then I noticed a booth to my left, glowing through the fog with its own
pearly light. A bright colored sign read, “Dazed and Confused Traveller
Orientation Station. Welcome to Possible!” A beautiful young woman behind
the desk beamed at me and gave me a big smile.

“My name is Glinda. Can I help you?”

“What’s happened? Is this San Francisco?” I asked.

Her deep brown eyes gazed at me kindly. “Yes and no,” she said. “Perhaps
you’d better come in and sit down.”

Inside the booth was a small, comfortable armchair, and Glinda sat me down
and poured me a cup of what she said was a soothing tea of valerian and St.
John’s Wort. I could have used a whiskey, frankly, but I was in no shape to

“What do you mean, yes and no?” I asked.

“Have you ever heard of the theory of parallel realities?” she asked.

“I’m a science writer for the New York Times. I’ve heard of everything.”

“We’re not sure just how it began. It might have had something to do with
voting patterns, or the time our mayor decided to register gay and lesbian
marriages. Anyway, for a long time many of us had been feeling that San
Francisco represented a somewhat different reality than the rest of the
country. And gradually that Otherworld seemed to become, well, more and
more real. One day we woke up and discovered that reality had divided, like
an amoeba. And every now and then, someone like yourself slips through.”

“Holy Sweet Jesus,” was all I could say, reverting to my mother’s favorite
expression. Would I ever see her again? What would this do to her

“Don’t worry,” Glinda reassured me. She was beaming at me with just that
doe-eyed, New Age, treacly smile that made me want to hit her. What about
Jason, my fiance? What about my job? What would they think if I didn’t show
up for my assignment? “Our helpful Indymedia technicians are working on ways
to bridge the reality gap. In the meantime, you’ll be a guest of the city.”

With worries churning around in my brain, I let her bundle me into an oddly
silent taxi that brought me here, to Mercedes’ guesthouse. I lay in bed,
shuffling my worries as if they were a definitive hand of cards I was damned
if I’d put down. Until with the stress, and the jetlag, and the fact that
it was now close to four AM in New York, in spite of myself I fell sound

Off my room is a small balcony, where Mercedes, my hostess, had
set a lovely breakfast of homemade scones, fresh cream and eggs which she
said come from the chickens I could hear clucking nearby. I’d trade it all
for a plastic room-service omelet or even the tasteless lasagna on the plane

Mercedes was looking at me sympathetically out of her big, brown, eyes, but
I refused to be soothed. She was so beautiful she annoyed me, with her
glossy black hair and her face that could have come straight off a Mayan
carving, and that damn smile. No one has ever mistaken me for a beautiful
woman, although I’m fashionably thin, chicly dressed, and the price of my
every-six-weeks haircut could support a small village in the Third World.

A chorus of songbirds competed with the cackling of hens
objecting in principle to the omelet made of their scrambled potential
offspring. I had a wide view of the garden, which extended over the full
interior of this block of row houses. All the old dividing fences had been
taken down, and the result was truly charming, at least, for anyone capable
of being charmed by a garden. I’d lost that capacity years ago. Minoring in
botany at Smith College, I’d had a summer job writing catalog copy for White
Flower Farm. Three months of trying to describe every scrawny scabiosa in
mouthwatering prose left me hoping to never see another iris that wasn’t
already safely dead and entombed in some expensive and tasteful arrangement.

I thought back to my last breakfast with my fiancé Jason, his eyes darting
anxiously to the clock, the cell phone in his jacket pocket ringing, the
worried frown line between his eyes as he stared at the morning paper.
Actually the same line formed between my eyes whenever I thought of my job.
The conference I was supposed to be covering started tomorrow. I HAD to get
back by then.

But this was an extraordinary garden, I had to admit. Mercedes
handed me a basket, and suggested I might like to pick some berries for
dessert. I wandered out, along a small path edged with alpine strawberries.
Near the kitchen door, a raised spiral mound grew every kind of fresh herb a
cook might need. Tubs of fragrant water lilies spilled over into miniature
waterfalls that flow over rock beds and into a small wetland of reeds and
cattails. Round, raised beds were thick with lettuces, arugula, radicchio
and sorrel, or newly planted with baby squash and young tomatoes. The path
wound between berry bushes and around fruit trees, with apples just
beginning to swell and plums almost ripe. Another fork dove into a small
wilderness of native shrubs and berries. All in all, it was quite
delightful and took my mind off my anxiety.

Deep in the center of the garden was a large pond, surrounded by
rounded stones and full of water lilies, water hyacinths, and paddling
ducks. All the little streams and rivulets and waterfalls seemed to
converge here, and a large frog sculpture spouted a fountain from its mouth
that splashed happily into the pond. Two small children lay on their
stomachs, scooping tadpoles out with a glass jar. They scrambled up to
their little feet when they saw me, beaming and thrusting a dripping jar
into my face. I shuddered. I hate children, as a rule, noisy little
rugrats. But these were extremely polite, introducing themselves as Tad and
Lily, beaming with those obnoxiously bright, healthy faces that looked as if
a bad thought or a whiff of air pollution had never brushed across that
glowing skin.

“Look, you can see its legs starting to grow,” Lily said to me,
holding up the jar for my inspection, where a hapless tadpole thrashed.
“That one will be a red-legged frog. They’re rare, but I bet we have a
thousand here.” She gave me a big smile, flashing perfect teeth that
appeared to have never crunched a Fruit Loop or sucked a Pepsi in their
short life. She had the big dark eyes of those poster children who gaze so
pathetically out of direct mail appeals for aid to the Third World, but hers
were glowing with health and happiness. Tad, in contrast, was as blond and
blue-eyed as a miniature Leonardo di Capria.

“We’re the Frog Block,” Tad explained. “Every family on the
block has at least one pond or water barrel where frogs can breed. And we
grow catfish, too, and water chestnuts.”

“Don’t you have terrible mosquitos?” I asked.

“No, silly,” Lily said. “Mosquitoes can’t breed in moving
water. That’s why we have the fountain.”

“And fish eat them,” Tad added.

“The next block over is the Hummingbird Block,” Lily said. “You
should see their garden—it’s so beautiful, with so many red flowers.
Pineapple sage and trumpet vine and honeysuckle.”

“And the block on the other side is the Songbird Block,” Tad
said. “They have all these really cool bird feeders and nesting boxes, and
they plant things for the birds, like sunflowers, or flowers that attract
the insects birds like to eat.”

“I wouldn’t like to live there,” Lily said. “Nobody in that
whole block can have a cat.”

‘They can, they just can’t let it go outside,” Tad corrected

The children proceeded to escort me around the garden. A swathe
of native plants meandered through the area, providing habitat for native
insects, birds, and wildlife. Fruit trees were underplanted with fava
beans, herbs, currants or artichokes, in what the kids called ‘guilds’—kind
of plant support groups, as they explained it, with some fixing nitrogen,
some attracting beneficial insects, others bringing up nutrients from deep
in the soil, and some, presumably, encouraging the others to talk about
their feelings and unashamedly admit their deepest traumas. One bed was
covered with a domed chicken house, woven of willow. The chickens were
happily scratching the dirt and consuming kitchen scraps.

“That’s our chicken tractor,” Lily said. “They eat our kitchen
scraps, dig and fertilize the garden bed, and give us eggs to eat. When the
bed is ready, we move the whole dome to a new bed and plant the old one.’
Beyond the chickens, a raised spiral bed was planted with
strawberries, and I spied many ripe, red ones. I remembered my errand.

“Can I pick some of those?” I asked the children.

“Help yourself to anything you want, except from the beds right
by people’s doors,” Lily said. “It’s all common.”

“But what’s to prevent someone from just taking it all?” I

The kids looked shocked. “Who would do that?” Lilly asked.
“You’d feel just terrible, sitting alone in your house eating strawberries
and thinking that nobody else had any.”

“The most fun part of the garden is sharing,” Tad said. “And
there’s enough strawberries so everyone can have as much as they want,

It was clear to me that I’d fallen into some Otherworld, some
different social order. I considered informing them that all such
altruistic ideologies had been discredited by harsh experience and the
failures of Soviet Communism, but why spoil their innocence? I just hoped,
for their sakes, that they’d never reverse my little accident and fall into
the real world, where the vultures would eat them alive. I picked
strawberries, and the children showed me a few hidden vines of ripe blackcap
raspberries and red currants.

“Be serious, now,” I said to Mercedes as we ate berries and cream on the
balcony. “This commons business can’t really work. It never has.
Someone always overstocks the sheep or whatever, and ruins it all.”

She just smiled, basking like a cat in the sun. “You’re working
awfully hard at being unhappy.”

“Working! That’s what I should be doing—working! At the job I
struggled and waited and planned and plotted and worked my posterior off to
get! Do you have any idea how hard it is for a woman—a woman!—to get to be
a science writer for the New York Times! And how important this assignment
is—the assignment I’m going to blow because some weird glitch in reality has
me trapped in some hippy gardeners’ utopia! “

“I’m sorry. I forget how upsetting this must be for you. But
won’t your boss understand?”

“Understand what? You just can’t call an editor at the New York
Times and explain that you missed an important assignment because you fell
into another reality. Believe me!”

Mercedes sighed. “We do have to get you back, somehow. I know
the Indymedia technicians are working on it—not just for you, but for the
others. There’s been a steady trickle of Slippers over the past few years.
Many don’t want to go back, but some do.”

“And how many have gotten back?” I asked.

“We’re working on it.”

I couldn’t help myself, I began to cry. “My mother has high
blood pressure,” I sobbed. “This will kill her. And Jason—he’s expecting me
to have dinner with his law firm next week. We’re supposed to announce our

Mercedes patted me on the shoulder, looking deeply distressed,
and handed me a fresh handkerchief so I could blow my nose. I’m not one of
those women who cries attractively, and I knew my nose was red and my eyes

“Your poor mother,” Mercedes said sympathetically. “You must be
terribly worried. Well, there’s only one thing to do. To hell with those
slowpokes at Indymedia. We’ll have to go find the Wizards Collective.”

“The Wizards Collective? What is that?”

“They’re very mysterious. Nobody knows exactly where or how
they meet. But they are widely believed to have synthesized the most
sophisticated virtual reality technology with magic. Some people think
they’re responsible for the reality split that removed us from your world.
And they are rumored to be able to manipulate time.”

“How do we find them? Follow the Yellow Brick Road?” The
thought that my fate hung not just on a bunch of wizards, but a collective
of them was extremely depressing to me. I had briefly been part of a
women’s collective my first year in college. I’d attended three, long,
grueling meetings where we never could agree on anything, and decided that I
much preferred a clear hierarchy where someone, preferably me, could just
tell everyone what to do.

We'll begin where everything begins in this city, Mercedes
said. At the Garden of the Commons.

To Be Continued

Uncopyright (u) or copyleft © Reclaim the Commons. Feel free to reproduce,
send around, and repost these postings for all educational, nonprofit, and
agitprop purposes, or distribute them in any Really, Really Free Market you
come across. Just direct people back to this website,
. But if you make money from them, you owe us
big time! Or you might just want to donate anyway, to help us make these
visions real.


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